By Chloe Taft
March 1, 2013
An average of one person a day has been killed in Philadelphia over the past 25 years, almost always due to gun violence. Four or five times that many have survived gunshot wounds. These are not the mass killings of Aurora or Newtown but the routine violence of an urban center—so routine that sometimes no media even reports them. Mainstream news coverage of Philadelphia’s shootings is inconsistent, in part because there are no longer enough reporters, says Jim MacMillan, a photojournalist who teaches at Swarthmore College.
So in March 2012, MacMillan and photographer Joseph Kaczmarek cofounded GunCrisis.org to document Philadelphia shootings. A volunteer team gets tips from police sources and scanners, local news outlets, and social media. Almost every night, Kaczmarek and his camera follow these reports to the crime scenes. Part of the solution to gun violence, which MacMillan considers a public health crisis, is to “illustrate the problem and make it difficult to look the other way,” he says.
The project seeks to promote discussion about solutions while avoiding polarizing debates. Posting Kaczmarek’s images on the website, MacMillan says, “is the best way to transport the news consumer to the scene and to disrupt the normalization of gun crime here.”
MacMillan hopes to include more photos and reports from affected community members in Philadelphia, including ex-offenders. “I worry that we can be perceived as helicoptering in to places we don’t live right now, because it’s a very fractured city,” he says. “I want to engage communities to participate directly. That will give us more impact.”
Interest in the project has emerged in other cities, MacMillan says.
Chloe Taft is a freelance writer in Chicago.